a night at elaine’s

Reading Ian McEwan’s piece in the New York Times on the passing of his friend Christopher Hitchens, I am transported to a night many years ago when my friend Jonathan Tasini invited me to join him for dinner with Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham and friends one evening in New York. And so we gathered at the famous restaurant, Elaine’s, at a nice round table in the middle of the room: Lewis Lapham, his good friend Christopher Hitchens, “Hitch’s” girlfriend (and subsequent wife) Carol Blue, someone rather pompous from the New York Observer, Jonathan, and me, with Elaine hovering around to check on “Louie.” Clearly she was as delighted to have him and his friends there as we were all delighted to be there. There was much drink, great food, and amazing and rowdy and boisterous conversation. I didn’t know how they could all drink so much and still be so brilliant. The night ended hazily, gray, with us all reluctantly leaving the warm restaurant for cold streets and taxis home.  But the warmth of that night will never leave me.

The restaurant Elaine’s closed its doors last May, and now Hitch has taken leave of us too.  If there’s a heaven and he finds himself in it, I’m sure he’ll be really pissed. Brilliant man, Mr. Hitchens, I miss you already.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.


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